2016 Hangover with the Runsketeers

Mini photo bomber, SIOR, TPP, ER

Today’s run (Hangover Fun Run): 4 miles

2016 has arrived and the Runsketeers rang in the New Year this morning with the LIRRC Hangover Run at Eisenhower Park. After so many days of unseasonably temperate weather, the cold returned for real. I arrived a little after 9:00 AM and met up with TPP. She and I walked over to the staging area where we signed the waiver doc and tucked into a corner to avoid the the chilly winds. SIOR texted that she was delayed and would join us after the start.

The Hangover Run is a perfect running event for me, because it has elements of a race like a formal start and timing clock, but no individual tracking of runners. Running distance is at the discretion of each participant although most people run five 1-mile laps. I normally do that as well, but I wasn’t feeling great this morning and elected to run only four.

There’s a lot of construction work going on at Eisenhower Park and today’s route differed a little from the previous four times I’d done the Hangover. The old route was basically a half circle. This year it looked more like a giant comma. I actually like the new course better,  even though you still end up looking at the same scenery, mile after mile.

Comma course

TPP and I took off, she was the hare and I was the turtle. The course allows you to see runners coming back in the opposite direction and I was able to monitor her progress. TPP seemed to be running half a lap ahead of me but she covered five miles in almost the same time as it took me to complete four. I watched for SIOR and I think I saw her once along the way. She did a lap after TPP and I had finished and we took pictures and videos of her as she came around at the end.

SIOR showing her signature maturity

Once done, we made our way to the lot. SIOR started a conversation with a random runner who was walking ahead of us. She complimented his running tights and told him some websites that have good running gear bargains. The guy said to TPP and SIOR that they probably shop on-line a lot. I thought that was a sexist thing to say. I stood up for them and told him that SIOR prefers stores because you can’t shoplift on a website. He left quickly after that.

As tradition dictates, we headed to Starbucks. Our timing was perfect because a motorcycle gang was just leaving when we arrived. We practically had the place to ourselves until some guy SIOR knows showed up and sat at the end of our table. To her credit, she didn’t talk to him about his pants.

The Runsketeers exchanged holiday gifts. SIOR gave me a runner’s headlamp and TPP gave me a framed picture of the Runsketeers that also included KWL and NIMC. Knowing them as I do, I gave them red wine and homemade chocolate truffles. As usual, we talked about everything and I was shocked when I looked at my watch and saw it was almost noon.

We said our goodbyes and talked about our next run which we hope will happen in January. Once again, the year started out great, with a bracing run and the company of good friends. Happy New Year to all.

The Runsketeers induct a new member

The Run Crew: ER, KWL, TPP, NIMC, SIOR

Today’s run (track): 3.25 miles

Today was a Runsketeer reunion run that coincided with TPP and her sister NIMC racing Rob’s Run, a 5K trail race that takes place at Stillwell Woods. SIOR was considering racing, but she was dealing with a head and chest cold. She decided instead to run with me and KWL across the street at the high school track.

KWL, SIOR and I met up at the tennis courts on Southwoods Road and did a warm-up jog to the track. Warm-up was the operative phrase because, according to Garmin Connect, the “feels-like” temperature was a chilly 34°. I’d brought a fleece vest to stay warm before my run and ended up wearing it the whole time. We reached the track and ran a few laps together before spotting TPP and her sister heading our way. It was the first time we’d met NIMC who was instantly inducted into the mighty Runsketeers.

NIMC lives in Minnesota and came to LI to spend Thanksgiving with family. She’s a very active person, an accomplished runner and frequent racer. It’s clear that speed runs in the TPP family. The two racers made their way back to Stillwell and the non-racers continued to circle the track. I decided to run clockwise after a while, because I do so much of my running on the left side of the street and I thought that might counterbalance it. I also did it because it gave me an opportunity to communicate with KWL and SIOR at least once a lap.

I ended up covering 12 laps, plus an additional .25 miles at the beginning. We then headed over to Stillwell to meet up with TPP and NIMC and watch them start the race. It was freezing and I could tell that TPP was anxious to get moving. I tried to manage her expectations that the huge crowd of runners (600 estimated), combined with narrow single track, would produce a slower time than a typical 5K run on pavement. Turns out I was wrong. NIMC PR’d and TPP ran sub-9:00 pace.

Rob’s Run start

SIOR, KWL and I headed to Starbucks after the racers took off. We managed to find a place to sit despite it being somewhat crowded. Soon after, TPP and NIMC joined us, looking like they’d barely broken a sweat. We had lots of discussions about running form, destination marathons and running at high elevations. SIOR wants to do the Maine Coast Marathon in Kennebunkport, KWL and his wife are going to run London and Berlin, and NIMC wants to run Athens. TPP and I are not hopping on the marathon train.

Selfie courtesy of  magnetic theory (and TPP)

Perhaps the funniest moment of the morning was at the end, when we were getting ready to go our separate ways. TPP was leaning her iPhone on the ridge of a column outside Starbucks to do a timed group shot. The column turned out to be metal and TPP has a magnetic gadget on the back of her phone for a car mount. That made it possible to stick the iPhone right on the column at the perfect height for a perfect selfie. That’s our TPP!

It was great seeing my buddies and meeting TPP’s sister today. Thanks to working at home on Wednesday, I was able to string together an elliptical session and four runs. SIOR has organized her army of friends to do a running streak (at least one mile a day) from Thanksgiving to New Year. So far, I’m on track, but unfortunately my streak will end tomorrow. I do hope to do at least four workouts per week whenever possible. That should count for something.

Runsketeer run with a Vonnegut twist

I miraculously remembered to take our selfie

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 4.5 miles

There’s a short story written by Kurt Vonnegut called “Harrison Bergeron” that summarizes today’s Runsketeer run. In the story, the main character is saddled with government-provided “handicaps” to counter his intelligence and athleticism and ensure an egalitarian society. In my case, it was my speedy friends who were recovering from recent races that allowed us to all run together the entire time.

TPP and I met up on Colonial Road around 7:30 AM to start things off. Our plan was to run to Bethpage State Park and connect with SIOR who who would join us around 8:00. TPP and I took off at an easy pace that allowed us to chat as we made our way south. It seemed like we covered the 1.5 miles in three minutes. We arrived at Bethpage a few minutes before SIOR, but soon enough her semi-tractor trailer of an SUV pulled into the lot.

We made a plan to run south for four miles out-and-back which would give me and TPP a total of 5.5 miles. Due to TPPs intense duathlon yesterday and SIOR’s marathon last weekend, everyone was happy to run my pace. It reminded me of the first time we ran together at Eisenhower Park, when I was better able to keep to the pace they’d set. Like before, the time went by quickly and we ended up turning around after 1.5 miles. That resulted in a total of 4.5 for me and TPP.

The route

There are a lot of hills in that section, so despite our leisurely pacing, we did a good bit of work. The last part of the southern path is a half mile hill with a 3.4% grade that I always dread. It was no picnic today, but I did fine. About halfway up the hill, SIOR caught up to a Facebook running friend and they traveled together as TPP and I took the lead.

Although we didn’t cover our planned distance, I think we were all happy with our runs. Me especially, due to the Bergeroning of my running buddies. SIOR drove me and TPP back to our cars. I played navigator and SIOR really appreciated that.* Later, at Starbucks, I realized how lucky I was to have survived the short ride after she’d told us that she views highway driving as a competitive sport. TPP views it as a chess game, which is slightly more comforting.
* Editor’s note: She did not

We did meet up at Starbucks. As usual, I arrived last because I’m a fan of speed limits. While they were waiting for their fancy mocha latte skinny no-caf drinks, I sat with my basic coffee and watched the guy to my left eat the biggest pile of something covered in syrup that I’d ever seen. I didn’t know Starbucks had that on the menu. It’s like an IHOP with better coffee.

We probably covered 50 topics in the same number of minutes, including that fact that TPP’s sister was running the Chicago Marathon today. We wrapped up around 10:00 to get to our days started. This is TPP’s first anniversary with paramour and sometime Runsketeer JC, so they’ll celebrate tonight. SIOR brought more chaos into her household today with the adoption of a puppy from a rescue shelter. I’ll continue to celebrate my son’s 16th birthday with the family tonight.

Tomorrow’s a holiday and that should keep the streets relatively clear for a neighborhood run. I’m glad to have the opportunity to run four consecutive days. After Monday, I won’t get too many chances for a workout until next Saturday. No working from home this week.

The Runsketeers take on the trails!

TPP, brat (aka, SIOR), ER, KWL

Today’s run (Dirty Sock route: Belmont Lake): 6.5 miles

Adventure called and the Runsketeers responded this morning with a loop or two (or three) around Belmont Lake. KWL, SIOR, TPP and I planned to meet around 7:00 AM. I was the laggard of the bunch as they were all hanging out together by the time I arrived. I tried to explain the Dirty Sock course — how it starts at the western trail head and branches off toward Southards Pond before dipping south to the eastern exit. After getting a collective, “what the hell are you talking about?” look from my companions, I suggested they just follow the trail as best as they could.

We began to walk to our starting point and bossy SIOR said, “Can we start running now?” So we did. Doing that, as well as running back to the western trail head when I finished, accounted for my additional third of a mile on top of running the full Dirty Sock route. We ran together at the start and then TPP and SIOR picked up the pace and went on ahead. KWL stayed back with me and we ran together and chatted until we reached Belmont Lake.

While KWL turned on the burners, I kept my moderate pace and circled the lake. About halfway around, I ran into SIOR and TPP who were running the lake clockwise. I soon saw KWL coming back on his way to catch up with the others. I again saw the three of them near the end of my loop. TPP ended up doing two lake loops and the others went around for a third time.

I am officially the least popular Runsketeer

The Dirty Sock route can be challenging when the path is wet and the humidity is off the charts. Neither was the case today. Just in case, I’d packed my gel flask with a mix of water and a Roctane Expresso gel. I haven’t used gels in over a year, so the one I had was well past its expiration date. I didn’t realize that until I took my first swig and got a mouthful of coffee flavored grit. I finished it nonetheless.

I think the gel helped, because I felt a bit more energetic after ingesting it. Curiously, I detected an aftertaste that reminded me of alcohol and I wondered if the gel had fermented in its pack. Probably not, because a little alcohol goes a long way with me and I didn’t feel any related effects. However, I did start to crave pizza.

I ran along the southern end of Southards Pond and went south for the last half mile of the route. This last section used to frustrate me when I did the Dirty Sock 10K because the trail seemed to go on forever. The greatest moment of that race was when I started to hear Terry Bisogno announcing runners as they crossed the finish line. I didn’t get that today, but when I came around the final bend and saw the emerald green field ahead of me, I was pretty darn happy.

My route today

I extended my run to our starting location and waited of the others who were looking to cover more miles than me today. I ended up going over to the playground to get some shade and a minute later TPP appeared. We found a shady area close to where we’d see KWL and SIOR when they exited the woods. TPP and I caught up a little before our buddies arrived.

As tradition dictates, we headed to the closest Starbucks which had a very comfy seating section. After receiving gifts of coffee and pumpkin bread from SIOR and TPP respectively, the four of us recapped our run. Three of the four of us went over the moon about KWL’s Apple Watch Sport that he was wearing. I am defiantly anti-Apple, and didn’t join in that love fest. However, KWL did manage to take a remote selfie using his watch to control SIOR’s iPhone, which was a pretty neat trick.

It was a great run for all of us and I was excited to share one of my favorite running locations with my best running buds. KWL is officially our d’Artagnan (although that honor is shared with TPP’s JC). I look forward to more runs with these guys. I may even do Cow Harbor after all.

Runsketeers at Bethpage, the long and the short of it

Humid and happy

Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 4 miles

In keeping with our plan to do at least one group run every month, the Runsketeers got together this morning on the Bethpage trail. SIOR and TPP were aiming for about eight miles and I wanted to do four. I met up with the speed twins halfway through their route which worked out perfectly.

The weather was very humid this morning, but not too hot at 8:00 AM. TPP and SIOR came through the Haypath Road trail head and we began running together at that point. Our plan was to go two miles north before our turnaround, which would get us to our targeted distance. We immediately found ourselves yelling to a runner that SIOR thought she knew.

Who she’d never met in person.
Who actually lives in Atlanta.
It wasn’t her.

Once the woman disappeared from our sight (I’m guessing she went in search of a restraining order) we settled into our run. I’m still at the slow end of the spectrum, but my buddies stuck with me for a while before opening up the throttle. They stopped and waited a few times for me along the way, and we were all running together when a guy passed on the opposite side and yelled, “Hey, Emerging Runner group!” It was Jonathan and his wife, who I’d met along the same trail about a year ago. We saw them later after our turnarounds.

I’m still recovering from my disc rupture, so I’ve been keeping my speed moderate to prevent re-aggravating my injury. Today’s 4 miler was an improvement over Friday’s experience. My stride is getting back to normal and my foot is no longer being mashed to the front each time I run. It feels like progress.

As tradition dictates, we headed over to Starbucks for our post-run café. I was the last to arrive and I walked in regretting that I didn’t bring a change of clothing. The humidity had soaked me like a sponge.

Apparently, the guy sitting next to TPP had been giving her a hard time before I got there. SIOR was explaining the situation to me as she helped me clean up coffee I’d spilled all over the counter because I still can’t open a Starbucks milk container correctly. I wasn’t sure what the full situation was, so I positioned myself between the guy and the Runsketeers when I sat down. Nothing happened, but I’m still curious to know the details.

We had our usual conversation that veered from subject to subject like a pool ball. All too soon, we needed to head out to meet our day’s obligations. I really had a great run today and also loved our part two. I can’t wait for our June outing!

Runsketeer reunion: first spring run!

Our traditional selfie, courtesy of a random Starbucks customer (photo credit to TPP)

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 3.6 miles

Take a look at the picture above. Why is this man smiling? Is it because he ran 3.63 miles today, his first run in two weeks? No, definitely not that. The reason for the smile comes from the people to his right and left. While I suffered through a difficult and painful run this morning, I ended up having a great time today. I will admit most of that happened once we hit Starbucks.

I’ve been feeling good about my recovery. I’ve still experienced pain in my left hamstring that’s likely caused by my recently diagnosed herniated disc. I’ve tried a few easy strides along the halls of my office to better gauge my progress. Things have felt pretty good and I was both encouraged and excited to run with my buddies this weekend. But when the (blown and carbon) rubber hit the road, that familiar feeling of being stabbed in the leg with every stride was clear and present.

Our plan was to start out in our usual place, just north of Haypath Road. SIOR and TPP wanted to run longer than my planned 3 miles, so they arrived earlier and ran south for about 1.5 miles before turning around. I texted them when I arrived and SIOR texted back suggesting that I head their way so we could meet up on their way back. After just a few steps, I realized that this was going to hurt.

I took it slow but every step was painful. At least I could run. My doctor said I should avoid hills. Unfortunately, there are quite a few on this path. I made it to the top of a short, steep hill where I saw my friends coming from the other direction. We exchanged hugs and hellos and headed north together. There was no way I could keep up with them today (could I ever?) but they stopped periodically to allow me to catch up.

I had neglected to restart my Garmin when we met up. Fortunately I discovered my error at the point where I started so all I needed to do was double the initial distance to get my true mileage. We continued together but soon I watched my buddies disappear into the distance. I was not enjoying myself and it wasn’t just the pain. I realized that the combination of fewer workouts and less intensity (the elliptical can’t match the treadmill) has taken a toll on my fitness.

Somehow I made my way through the run and, as I approached my endpoint, I saw that TPP and SIOR were waiting near where I’d parked, talking to a person dressed in white. As I got closer, I realized that this person was on a bike and I was happy to see that it was TPP’s paramour, JC. We caught up briefly and JC suggested that steroid shots may relieve the pain from my disc issue. I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Happy birthday to me – thanks SIOR!

We left JC to his ride and the Runsketeers started a convoy to Starbucks. I led the way which involved Route 135, Old Country Road and South Oyster Bay Road. At one point, SIOR texted me asking if I was lost. She thinks she is funny. When we got inside Starbucks, SIOR presented me with a birthday gift – a SPIbelt – one of the best things you can give to a runner. Mine is getting old, ripped and frayed and I rely on it a lot. I’m happy to have a new one that I don’t have to worry about breaking on a run and dumping my credit cards, cash and cell phone on the street.

SIOR also bought me coffee. I should have birthdays more often! The three of us hadn’t got together since the morning of the Hangover Run  (Jan 1) so we had a lot to catch up on. They patiently listened to me describe my job and company and we recounted our various adventures in travel. SIOR wins hands down with her transatlantic crossing via catamaran from South Africa to Brazil.

As usual, we ran out of time long before we ran out of conversation. Despite the painful run, I ended today’s workout in a fantastic mood. The Runsketeers cannot go another four months between our runs! My current injury will make it hard to keep up with my friends for a while, but we know it’s the non-running part that puts the smile on our faces.

Wishing SIOR a great race tomorrow at the MORE Half Marathon in NYC. I tease her about it being a woman’s-only event, but I really do support it. It was a little less than a year ago when we all ran the Brooklyn Half. A lot has happened since then in terms of my running. At least I’m seeing an orthopedist and just had an MRI, so I can understand exactly what’s causing this pain. What to do about that will be another story.

The Runsketeers provoke a priest

We should look a lot more tired

Today’s run (SUNY Old Westbury): 7 miles

This morning the Runsketeers took on the hills at SUNY Old Westbury for an energizing run on a cold morning. We also angered a priest, but I’ll get to that later. SIOR, TPP and I (founding members of our prestigious running club) invited new members JC and KWL to today’s group run. JC is Celia’s coach and paramour and KWL is a good friend of mine who knows SIOR and TPP from our Brooklyn Half adventure.

The plan was to meet in the parking lot of a church that is located diagonally across from the entrance to the Old Westbury campus. We’d then run the (approximately) four mile loop a couple of times. Eight miles was a little longer than I was aiming to cover today, so I figured I’d do my miles independently of the group and catch up with them at the end.

It was great to see my friends since we haven’t run together in a number of weeks. I was wearing my new Opedix Knee-Tecs for the first time and we discussed the increasingly high cost of good running tights. SIOR mentioned that the Knee-Tecs retail for $225 and JC said no running clothing is worth that much money. He may be right, but I liked the Opedix a lot and thought they provided great support, warmth and energy return. If I race again this winter, I’ll be wearing them.

We all started together, but soon split up when KWL and I crossed over to a road that had facing traffic. I don’t like running with cars coming up from behind. We lost sight of the others when they continued on the northern side and followed the road in the other direction. The hills at Old Westbury are plentiful and a few seem to go on forever. KWL was a good sport and he followed my pace, even though he could have gone a lot faster.

Despite the frequent hills, I was able to converse well with KWL and we caught up on a lot of things. As expected, we crossed paths with JC, TPP and SIOR who were running counter-clockwise during our first loop and again as they completed their second. At that point KWL joined the others so he could ramp up his speed. I continued on alone with a goal of covering 7 miles.

I stayed on course and turned around at Store Hill Road and followed the drive back to Cedar Swamp Rd. I crossed the street and ran a loop around the church before returning to my car to wait for the others. Or should I say before not returning to my car. This is the part about the priest.

As I made my way closer to where we parked, I saw a person walking around the cars and thought that my friends had beaten me back. I saw that the person was dressed in church vestments and he was putting flyers under our windshields. Being the brave soul that I am, I continued running instead of risking a scolding. In fairness, I was at 6.97 miles and wanted to make it to seven, so I had an excuse to continue. I ended up at 7.06.

Today’s seven

Once the priest returned to the church I bravely sneaked back to my car and read the flyer:

Forgive me Father, for I have parked

I completely understood that the church didn’t want people taking up spaces in the lot. While I felt badly that we’d broken the rule, our four cars were the only ones in the lot. We weren’t putting anyone out unless their hearts were set on parking in our particular spaces. But the message was received loud and clear and we plan to park at a lot within the SUNY campus next time.

My friends eventually made it back to their cars and we headed over to the Starbucks near Whole Foods in Jericho. Since I wasn’t able to run with everyone today, it was great to spend time relaxing over coffee. JC and KWL are both avid cyclists and triathletes and they compared notes on bike gear and races. The five of us had plenty to talk about. I loved the run, but I loved the post-run just as much.

Running seven miles today was easier than I expected, even with the hills. Although KWL and I maintained a fairly easy pace, I still managed to stay in the 10:00 range overall. Since I’ve already completed 80% of my weekly volume I have a few options for tomorrow. I could go over to the track and run intervals or head to Stillwell for a change of pace on the trails. Even if I end up staying in the neighborhood on Sunday I can still say it’s been an interesting week of running.

Runsketeer reunion on the Bethpage trail

Left to right: ER, SIOR, TPP, JC

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 6.8 miles
Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 5.1 miles

Yesterday morning was a washout that left me with no choice but to spend close to an hour on the treadmill. It was humid to be sure, but I needed the miles. It wasn’t all that bad, but today’s conditions were FAR better. All the Runsketeers ran together this morning for the first time since Brooklyn, (is that possible?) and we had a special guest on today’s run.

Our guest runner, JC, is a friend of TPP‘s. He’s an accomplished triathlete and avid cyclist. SIOR and I arrived at Bethpage State Park at the same time, and I was disappointed to see that they were still collecting admission to the park. My friend who mans the booth gave me a pass, but he gave SIOR a hard time. SIOR’s SUV has dark tinted windows that make her Empire Passport hard to see, causing some disagreement in terms of its veracity. He ultimately relented and let her through.

TPP and JC didn’t bring their fake Empire Passports, so they ended up parking close to Haypath instead. They ran south on the bike trail to meet up with me and SIOR who were heading north to intercept them. We connected along the path just above the Bethpage woods. SIOR suggested that we go south for a change (we usually end up going the other way). We kept a moderate pace and I was able to stay with everyone. Soon we were back on the older south trail where we continued down the big hill and had an interesting talk about gender equality.

When we run together, the distance seems to go by much faster. About two miles in, JC and SIOR took the lead while TPP and I followed. It was nice to catch up with TPP and every once in a while SIOR and JC would stop and wait for us so we could run together. I wish I could improve another 30 seconds per mile in my pace, but I’m not there yet. After mapping the route based on my GPS output I calculated that I ran 10:17 overall. Not bad for for almost 7 miles.

As tradition dictates, we headed over to Starbucks for our post-run coffee. That was great — as usual — and it gave us a chance to get to know JC better and catch up among ourselves. Before we knew it, it was almost noon and we all needed to head out for our day’s non-running related activities.

One of Stillwell’s steep drops
The old junker 

Later in the afternoon my son and I headed to Stillwell where we followed some very technical terrain and even went off trail a few times. Lots of fun, and not so easy on my legs that had already run a mile past my base this morning. Along the way, we visited the junked car that is inexplicably positioned on one of the cross trails in Stillwell. I don’t know why this thing has remained for years in the otherwise pristine woods. I’ll admit that I used this car more than once as a landmark when I was learning the trails. Maybe that’s its purpose.

It has been a very good week of running and today was fantastic. At one point in the run SIOR turned around and asked, “Isn’t this the most perfect day for a run?” I couldn’t have said it better.